Fork­fuls of char­ity

Eat­ing well and sup­port­ing a good cause come to­gether more and more fre­quently in China as char­i­ties find that food lovers will open their hearts— and their wal­lets— for a great meal. re­ports.

China Daily (USA) - - DINING | LIFE - Contact the writer at michaelpeters@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

As I dig into a plat­ter of Korean bar­be­cue at a new Beijing restau­rant, Jim Boyce is in a bar a few blocks away, en­joy­ing Bel­gian beer and “liar’s dice”. At her Shunyi home, Allison Cooke is dream­ing of tasty gin­ger­bread houses stud­ded with gum­drops, the roofs made “snowy” with thick white ic­ing.

What such lo­cal food­ies have in com­mon — be­sides a rather well-de­vel­oped fondness for good food and drink — is find­ing ways to com­bine our ap­petites with char­ity. Pro­ceeds from the “Korean tapas” meal be­ing wolfed down by 80 guests at the justopened Su­lyi restau­rant will sup­port refugeeswhoar­rive in Greece with lit­er­ally noth­ing but the clothes they are wear­ing. “Maovem­ber” events or­ga­nized by Boyce and oth­ers will gen­er­ate funds for Chi­nese or­phans. Cooke’s gin­ger­bread fan­tasy — and plenty of hot mulled wine and a freshly roasted whole pig — will be served up at the Ger­man Christ­mas bazaar in late Novem­ber, which gen­er­ates hun­dreds of thou­sands of yuan for dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren and fam­i­lies in China.

Christ­mas bazaars go back 400 years in Ger­many, but tra­di­tions like that — es­pe­cially those that marry food and fundrais­ing — are much newer in theMid­dle King­dom.

The idea, how­ever, has been em­braced quickly. Chi Fan for Char­ity, in Beijing and Hong Kong on Nov 5 and in Shang­hai onNov 12, will at­tract hun­dreds to some of the top restau­rants in those cities to raise money for those less for­tu­nate.

Chi Fan for Char­ity, a mod­ern take on­the tra­di­tional gala char­ity dinner, invites lo­cal per­son­al­i­ties to host a ta­ble at one of the city’s top restau­rants. Hosts in­vite nine friends to pur­chase tick­ets at their ta­ble, priced from 500 to 1,500 yuan ($75-$224) per per­son de­pend­ing on the restau­rant. Af­ter the dinner in each city, guests and sup­port­ers are in­vited to an af­ter-party where peo­ple min­gle and share their din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

Mean­while, the Ital­ian em­bassy and the Ital­ian Cham­ber of Com­merce are or­ga­niz­ing restau­rant din­ners around China next month to ben­e­fit earth­quake vic­tims in cen­tral Italy.

“A Fu­ture for Ama­trice” has a Face­book page, a spe­cial fundrais­ing bank ac­count through the end of Novem­ber, and a net­work of more than 50 restau­rants in China that have joined the global cam­paign.

“Thanks to the great gen­eros­ity of the Ital­ian restau­ra­teurs it is al­ready hav­ing a great suc­cess,” says Am­bas­sador Et­tore Se­qui, who kicked Kristin Lum, off the pro­gram in Beijing last month with chefs from Beijing, Tian­jin and Qing­dao. He’s con­fi­dent in the power of food, ea­ger to pro­mote “an im­por­tant char­ity ini­tia­tive through one of our strengths in the world: Ital­ian cuisine”.

The re­sults can be sig­nif­i­cant.

Chi Fan for Char­ity, founded in 2009 byMichael Crain with a mis­sion of giv­ing back to the Beijing com­mu­nity, has so far do­nated 4.2 mil­lion yuan to lo­cal ben­e­fi­cia­ries, with 100 per­cent of ta­ble pro­ceeds go­ing di­rectly to des­ig­nated char­i­ties. This year’s cam­paign will sup­port the Dan­de­lion School for mi­grant chil­dren and the Starfish Project, a so­cial en­ter­prise that pro­vides traf­ficked and ex­ploited women and their chil­dren with shel­ter, coun­sel­ing, ac­cess to health­care, ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties, child ed­u­ca­tion grants and vo­ca­tional train­ing.

The Ger­man hol­i­day bazaar has raised hun­dreds of thou­sands of yuan for var­i­ous char­i­ties in its 21-year his­tory, while Maovem­ber bar events took off like a rocket last year, net­ting more than 80,000 yuan — enough to pay for more than 100 cataract surg­eries in ru­ral China. This year’s ben­e­fi­cia­ries are Li­brary Project for mi­grant schools and Good­works, an or­ga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides vo­ca­tional train­ing for or­phans and adults with men­tal dis­abil­i­ties.

More mod­est ef­forts proved sus­tain­able, too.

This week­end’s Beijing Food­ies ben­e­fit at Su­lyi not only gave guests a chance to see a sleek new restau­rant ahead of its for­mal open­ing on Nov 8, it raised more than 7,600 yuan from the 80 guests who at­tended.

Beijing Food­ies was founded sev­eral years ago by XiXi Cheng. It’s cur­rently run by din­ing blog­ger Kristin Lum, who took it over about three years ago. The monthly din­ners sup­port a new char­ity each time. “We’re al­ways up for new­din­ing ad­ven­tures and keen to sup­port com­mu­nity events,” says Lum.

“You’ve got to eat any­way, so why not,” says one reg­u­lar. “I’ve been com­ing for years. You meet dif­fer­ent peo­ple ev­ery time, have a great meal for just 100 yuan, and sup­port lots of peo­ple who really need help.

“There are peo­ple es­cap­ing have sex-traf­fick­ing, or ISIS, or who have got­ten death threats from the Tal­iban,” says Brian Ger­main of the Kara Tepe Refugee Camp, where he vol­un­teered this sum­mer in Lesvos, Greece. Forks stop mov­ing as Ger­main de­scribes meet­ing a man who had to swim for nine hours, hold­ing his small daugh­ter the whole time, af­ter a boat built for 20 but loaded with 60 cap­sized.

Such sto­ries and causes turn a night of good food into food for thought. For more and more vic­tims of hor­rific cir­cum­stances, the two are com­ing to­gether very of­ten.

“I like to know that I’m giv­ing to oth­ers while I’m en­joy­ing my cur­ry­wurst at the Ger­man Christ­mas bazaar,” says Shunyi res­i­dent Cooke.

“But I have to admit, it’s a great party, too,” she says.

“There are beau­ti­ful crafts for sale and lovely Christ­mas mu­sic to en­joy. Now that the weather is turn­ing colder, in my mind I can al­ready smell the hot mulled wine, the whole roast pig and those de­li­cious sausages.”

We’re al­ways up for new din­ing ad­ven­tures and keen to sup­port com­mu­nity events.” or­ga­nizer Beijing Food­ies

PHOTOS PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Top: Maovem­ber raises cash for dis­ad­van­taged fam­i­lies with bar games, do­na­tions, pin sales, wine tast­ings and more. Above left: Meat­balls for char­ity: Din­ers get an ex­clu­sive deal and a party at­mos­phere at the monthly Beijing Food­ies events. Above right: Chi Fan for Char­ity or­ga­nizes ta­bles of 10 mer­ry­mak­ers for its fundrais­ing events in three Chi­nese cities.

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